Old Friends, New Adventures

One of my best friends, Jessica, came to town on Sunday! I met Jessica in the fall of 1994, during the fall semester of my first year in college at a party. Jessica walked up to me and introduced herself, we chatted a bit, and we have been friends ever since! Old friends are hard to come by, and I am always thankful for Jessica’s gift of friendship.

Jessica owned a scooter when she lived in Albuquerque, some years ago. She originally bought it as a cost-saving measure when gas prices were out of control. She rode it to work and looked pretty cute on her little red scooter. To ride a scooter, she needed a motorcycle license, but her scooter topped out at about 50 mph.

When she came to San Antonio, she rented a black H-D Hertiage so we could zip around together. I admit – I was a little worried about her safety, but Jessica is fearless, and she did just fine! When she picked up the bike, she rode around the parking lot a few times to get a feel for the clutch, and then we took off! We took the freeway, with me in the lead on my bike. Jessica said she was white knuckled on the freeway, but again, she rode like a boss!

Jessica with her 114 motor Heritage

Jessica and I rode our bikes out to New Braunfels, where we enjoyed some barbecue at Black’s. Then, we went on to Geronimo Creek Resort, where we had a treehouse cabin for a night. It was overlooking Geronimo Creek, where we swam and kayaked a bit. Jessica’s friend who now lives in New Braunfels (from Amarillo) joined us for the water fun and some games at night on the deck.

The cabin was adorable! There was a master bedroom with a king-size bed and closet, and the loft had two full-size beds and a chair. The living room had comfy couches, and there was a small kitchenette and dining area. The bathroom had a large walk-in shower. Jessica claimed the master bedroom and I enjoyed the loft! It really was a comfortable, fun place to stay, and I hope to go again.

The cabin

The cars could be parked under the cabin, but we parked our bikes a little to the side to park on grass instead of gravel. We had some neighbors in the next cabin, and at night, we had an enormous deck with tables, picnic tables, and grills. We did not grill anything since we were pretty satisfied from the barbecue earlier in the day.

The creek

The water in the creek was cool and refreshing. There was a dock with kayaks and paddle boards that visitors can use, so we went for a spin in the kayaks. We saw some little turtles in the water along the way. After kayaking, we swam and floated in the water while chatting and catching up with one another.

On the way home, we stopped at the oldest operating bakery in New Braunfels, TX. We got some pastries to take home in the saddle bags. Next, we headed home on River Road, we we got a picture under the flag. A nice man stopped and took the picture for us.

I love that Jessica and I are always willing to try new things. We are the kind of friends that can be apart, but feel like we saw each other just yesterday. We pick up right where we left off. We have a bucket list of other new adventures to keep us going. I love that we will remain old friends (in terms of years) who always feel youthful together.

Thunder in The Hill Country

My dad and I went for a ride yesterday, out into hill country to drive through Bandera, TX where there was a motorcycle rally. We didn’t exactly want to stop and join the crowd, but we wanted to drive by to see what it was like. The weather was perfect; we finally have nice fall weather that is cool in the mornings and pleasant in the afternoons. The sun was shining, and we looked forward to a pleasant ride and an escape from all the political drama.

It turns out, the political drama is inescapable. We encountered a Trump parade in Boerne, TX as we started our entry to hill country. People in vehicles (mostly trucks) had huge Trump flags and U.S. flags on the their vehicles and drove across the intersection with a police escort to direct traffic. We saw some of the blue line flags as well. We put our bikes in neutral and sat through five to six songs as they went through the intersection. The most interesting flag was one that had Trump’s head on an Schwarzenegger-type body, clad in a black muscle tank top and holding a machine gun. This was especially ironic as he is now hospitalized with COVID-19 and the newscasters keep reminding people that his advanced age and obesity at 244 pounds put him at high risk.

So, for a ride that was supposed to be an escape, it was still right in our faces. We only have a few more weeks until elections, and I hope all people vote to express their voice. I hope that despite the voter suppression we are witnessing, that our votes will be counted. And I hope that we can move on in a positive direction. We did see a tent where the League of Women Voters helped register people to vote in a non-partisan approach. I gave them a quick toot on the horn and a thumbs up. It was great to see some young people registering to vote.

On a more positive note, we got past the political messages and got on to Comfort, where we stopped at a family-owned hole in the wall Mexican restaurant for a late breakfast. The tables were distanced, and there were only two other tables occupied. The staff wore masks, and all the condiments were disposable packets.

We continued on to Kerrville, and over to Bandera, where there were tons of bikes! I stopped to take a few photos of the bikes that were parked. My favorite one was the old military one. It does not look comfortable to ride, but my eye always gravitates to those military Harley Davidson bikes. We also saw a cowboy bike with a cowhide leather roll on the back, pulling a trailer with a horse tail attached in the back. We saw a Jack Daniels custom painted HD, and we saw a bike with a big fluffy seat (almost like a shag carpet). It is fun to see how people personalize their bikes.

On the way home, my dad’s bike made a really bad sound on route 16, just outside of Bandera. He pulled over and I turned around to go back to him. He started the motor, I heard the terrible sound, and we agreed he should shut it off and get it towed. My dad told me I could go ahead to go home, but I told him I would wait with him. I think it is safer for people to stick together. Not one person stopped to ask if we were okay, which I suppose is another sign of the times. Luckily, Caliente H-D was able to come tow the bike to the dealership, where it will be inspected on Monday. My dad rode back with the tow tuck driver, and I rode home to pay the dog sitter and get a car. Harley (our boxer) and I rode over to the dealership to pick up my dad. They told him he will probably be very glad he had the warranty on his bike.

Waiting in the shade for the tow truck.

It was a long day, but it was a great day for a ride. Wind therapy is always good for the soul!

Pandemic Pursuits

It has been awhile since I have written. Life has been crazy with the COVID-19 Pandemic, and everyone has struggled in their own ways. In mid-March, I instantly became a Quaranteacher, meaning I taught my classes remotely for my undergrads. Some people didn’t have reliable tech devices, some didn’t have reliable internet, people were (and are) struggling financially, and some have lost loved ones to the virus. At the same time, I was supposed to be dissertating. It is a lot to deal with.

Finally, in May, I got out on my motorcycle with my dad, and I was able to check an item off my bucket list: a photo of our bikes on River Road in New Braunfels, TX. This is a beautiful, windy road, shaded with trees, following the river. There are campsites for tents, RVs, and cabins along the way, and there are businesses for tubing. The scenery is gorgeous, and the shade of the trees is refreshing! We stopped to take photo under the U.S. flag that hangs down from the trees. This has been on my bucket list for awhile, so I am glad I did something I wanted during this pandemic.

River Road in New Braunfels, TX

NEW WHEELS

In bigger news, I got a new bike! I have been eyeing a 2017 Road King for a few months at Caliente Harley-Davidson in San Antonio because I LOVE the paint job. I asked in March if we could possibly make a trade, but they have the bike listed at the top price, and we could not come to an agreeable deal. It’s ok. I assumed it just meant it is not for me. However, my dad surprised me in the last week of May, and he said he researched on the internet to see where else in the country people are selling the exact same bike, and he found one that was SIGNIFICANTLY more affordable in Las Vegas, NV. It was so much more affordable that we still saved money even after driving both ways and paying for hotel rooms and shipping. We did ship the bike back to San Antonio because there were rain and hail storms at the time here in San Antonio.

Ready for a test drive!

We left at about 5:00 AM with our boxer, Harley, in the backseat. We stopped in Albuquerque for the night and made sure to fill our gas tank. Then, the next morning, we cut into Arizona, and eventually into Las Vegas. We passed by the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade, which is pretty. When we got to Las Vegas, we used Clorox wipes to clean every hard surface of the hotel room before bringing our belongings in. This was our first time to leave our own self-quarantine bubble during the pandemic, and we hope our precautions will be enough. While in Las Vegas, we visited the Harley Davidson store on the strip, located near the famous Welcome To Las Vegas sign. We also visited Red Rock Harley Davidson, where they fussed over Harley (our boxer) and agreed to ship my bike to San Antonio for me.

Harley Davidson, Las Vegas (on the strip)

At the store where we got my bike, the guys pulled the bike out for me and parked it with the kickstand on a steep downhill. When I got on the bike, I couldn’t lift it. They told me to put my body into it, and I did, but I just couldn’t lift it. I panicked and thought the bike was not for me! Thankfully, one guy exclaimed that he would move the bike down off the hill, and that it is always stupid to park a bike on a hill like that. Once he moved the bike down to a parking space on fairly level ground, I was able to pick up the bike. However, I could tell that all of the guys were nervous about me riding the bike, which only gave me more anxiety. On the Road King, there is a dial you turn for the ignition, which I don’t have on my Softail Deluxe. So, I forgot to turn it, and they all jumped and let me know I had to do that. (The only thing that could have happened is I wouldn’t start the engine.) After that, I turned the ignition dial, heard and felt the rumble of the H-D motor, and slowly exited the parking lot. Once I got onto the streets, all my anxiety dissipated and I felt ready to ride! I took her around a few neighborhood blocks, stopping, starting, and turning in each direction. I felt confident that I could handle the bike, and as a matter of fact, my legs feel more comfortable with the slightly added legroom. I pulled back into the lot, and backed the bike up into the space. The guys smiled, and the helpful one said, “Oh yeah! Now you look like you own it!”

The bike has removable backrests, the quick-release backrest with luggage rack, and small fold-up floorboards for a passenger on the back. I do not plan to ever take a passenger, so I think I might remove the passenger floorboards. I also plan to remove the backrests, and I will only use the luggage rack when needed. One of the things I really like about the Road King is the larger and painted saddle bags. I will definitely fit more things in there, and they are much easier to open and close. The saddlebags can also come off easily, which is helpful when washing the bike. The thing I love most about this bike is the color! I love the royal blue on a Harley Davidson, and this bike just calls to me.

After we purchased the bike, I followed my dad on city roads and some freeway to take it to Red Rock Harley Davidson for shipping. I wasn’t worried at all on my bike, and it felt great. It was already about 95 degrees outside with blazing sun, but because there is no humidity, I didn’t sweat as much as I often do here in San Antonio. Once we arrived, we met with the necessary people for paperwork and payment for shipping. Both customers and employees loved on Harley, and a few people admired my bike. One older gentleman had his H-D in for a replacement bulb, and he called me “sweetheart” which was nice. He commented that he doubts I will use the highway pegs on the bike, and I told him I use them on my Deluxe. He was surprised because he assumed I wouldn’t be able to reach them. I told him that you just have to adjust them for your own legs. This man was close to my dad’s age, with white hair, a cowboy mustache, and a tall, lean frame. He told me he rides a 2017 Softail Slim, which surprised me because that is the lowest bike they make! I was surprised such a tall man would be on that bike. It just goes to show that everyone has to choose the bike they love.

So, I know people are thinking it, and I don’t disagree: I am spoiled. I was worried about getting the bike, and my dad said it is his graduation gift to me for my PhD. I told him I will pay part of it back, but he says not to worry. He told me that he enjoys our time together on our bikes, and he is glad to have the experiences with me. He says he can’t take his money with him when he dies, so he would rather spend it now on experiences. I have always loved having activities and projects with my dad, and my dad is the reason I got into motorcycles in the first place. I feel so lucky to have such a loving, involved, and supportive father. I hope to make him proud, and I hope we have many more miles to cover on our bikes.

While I do feel kind of worried about a big item purchase during the pandemic, part of me is in YOLO (You Only Live Once) mode. We don’t know who is going to die during the pandemic or when. We have to take care of ourselves, but we also have to enjoy the life we have. My rides with my dad and others are my escape from the everyday stresses of the world. At the same time, I am a hard worker. I always had two jobs after graduating college, and I work hard as a student. I hope that my studies will enable me to make a greater positive difference in my world, and I know I will continue to work on the educational and social issues that matter to me and my students, but every now and then, I will be thankful for the break I can take with my dad, riding my new 2017 Road King.

Last ride of 2019!

After a long hiatus, I went for a ride with my dad in the hill country of Texas. Harley, our boxer, has severe separation anxiety, which makes it difficult to get out with my dad. Luckily, we found a responsible dog sitter, which enabled us to go out today!

Most people think Texas is always hot, but it does start to get cold in December. We waited until noon to head out so that the temps would be in the low sixties. We wore long underwear under our clothes, our leather jackets, winter gloves, and 3/4 face helmet. As long as we were moving, we were just right. On a motorcycle, you have to factor in the effect of the wind. My dad, ever prepared, has a chart to calculate the temps with the winds at various speeds. For example, if it is 60 degrees, and you are riding 60 mph, it will feel like 54 degrees. See the chart below to see how wind speeds affect the temp for bikers.

Today, my dad and I rode up to Bandera, TX to have brunch. Bandera is known in Texas as the cowboy capital. We went to the Old Spanish Trail, known by locals as the O.S.T., which opened in 1921 and is the longest running continuously serving restaurant in Texas. It is a popular place for bikers to get breakfast, and it has a lot of fun humor. You can sit on a saddle at the bar (no bar stools) and they have a John Wayne room. While we were there today, they had some Christmas decorations. We also shared a long table with strangers who became acquaintances.

The bar

As an example of the humor, you can see their complaint sign. I wonder if teachers would get in trouble for a sign like this? Lol

Mouse trap to push for complaints

The ride home was nice. We encountered some construction where the right lane was closed and blocked off by barrels. A car had to get around us, pushing us almost into the barrels so he could be first, but we were safe. When we got to the main road by our neighborhood, I saw that I had 9,480 miles on my bike. I wanted to push it over to 9,500 so we bopped around a little more, traveling along Scenic Loop Road. Once home, I had just over 9,500 miles. I assume this was my last ride of 2019, so that’s not bad!

As we wrap up this decade, I had some real highs and lows. Ten years ago, we discovered my mom’s pancreatic cancer, which began a long battle. Despite my mom’s courage and strength, pancreatic cancer won after about 4 years. Words cannot express the grief I felt, but I am thankful for the love and support of family and friends. Once that door closed, I applied for a PhD program, and was accepted to the one I wanted! Now, I am so fortunate to be a PhD candidate who plans to graduate in May 2020. Not only that, but I am also a Harlista, with two years of riding under her belt. I never would have imagined myself on a motorcycle ten years ago.

As we head into the holidays, I hope you all take a moment to reflect on your blessings and achievements. May the new year bring you health, prosperity, love, and more safe rides!

Back to school with my Harley

I had my last “first day” of my doctoral program on August 26th. It is my fifth and final year of the journey, and every day, I am dissertating! I need to write, write, write, and to finish! I will be teaching two undergraduate courses, advising for one of the undergraduate student organizations, job searching, and… WRITING! I hope to throw some exercise into the mix too!

My friends gave me this light-up marquis sign as a birthday gift.

This year, I have decided to save money on parking at the university, and I only purchased a motorcycle parking permit. It saves me about $100, and it should save me a lot of time when looking for parking. In a car, one can easily spend 20 -30 minutes driving around campus (multiple lots) to find a parking space. Luckily, there is never a shortage of motorcycle parking, and it is actually closer to the building. The only negative: helmet hair.

I got a H-D backpack that can strap on to my sissy bar, and it is sturdy to protect my books and laptop. I had a professional sew my Rolling Thunder patch onto the front of the backpack, and it looks great, if I do say so myself! By riding a motorcycle, I will have to think about what I really need, and it will help limit how much I carry. I am usually over prepared and look like I am moving.

Something new for this year – we got a boxer on July 24th, and we named him Harley. He is the cutest dog I have ever seen, and his eyes are so expressive. Everyone comments on his beautiful face and expressive eyes. He is adopted from the Austin Boxer Rescue, and I cannot say enough about their great work. They work hard to maintain and improve the health of these dogs, they find foster families until they can be adopted, they have a rigorous application process that includes a home visit and interview, and they try to match people with the right dog. Harley is a wonderful addition to our family, but we do need to work on his separation anxiety. Because of the trauma he has experienced, he hates to be separated from us, and really gets himself worked up and into trouble when one of us leaves. This is to say that we have never left him alone yet, and we are working on just one person leaving at a time. This makes me want to get home faster, and I will probably minimize my time on campus this semester. I am a proud fur mama, and I probably drive people crazy. I am so thankful to have him with us!

Harley, the backseat driver
Harley has to make contact with us… he loves to sleep with his chin on us or at least have his foot or nose touching us.
the squeaky ball!
He lives in San Antonio – of course he has a squeaky taco!

6,686 miles, 20 states, 6 weeks on a Harley Softail Deluxe

Liberal, Kansas

Dodge City, Kansas was our final tourist destination for our big journey, and then we were headed back to Texas. On our way out of Kansas, we stopped for gas in Liberal, KS, which we discovered is the place where Dorothy Gale’s home can be visited (from The Wizard of Oz). It was right around the corner from the gas station, so of course, we had to check it out. There is a big mailbox with her name on it, and the house is located on Yellow Brick Rd. The house is a replica, which was built in 1907 and given to the Seward County Historical Society. Out front, there is a yellow brick road, and the bricks have all been dedicated by donors. There are statues of Dorothy, images of the tin man, the lion, and the scarecrow. We did not pay for a guided tour, but it was kind of neat to stop by and see it from the outside. This was another great surprise discovery.

Dorothy’s house
a scanned postcard

Once we got back on the road, we finished up riding through Kansas, cut across a small part of Oklahoma, and then got into Texas. We rode up to Amarillo, TX to visit one of my best friends from college, named Jessica. Jessica and I have been friends since I was in my first year of college (fall 1994). Jessica is now the proud owner of Girasol Café and Bakery, and she has a newly purchased catering truck that has her logo on it. Jessica is doing quite well; she has been on Savor the Goods, a farm to table program on Panhandle PBS. She is also a member of the West Texas Chefs Table, which is an honor because you have to be nominated and voted in. Her café is really cute, and she has a lot of regular customers who love the menu, but they also enjoy sitting and talking with her. It doesn’t surprise me that people come for her, in addition to the food. Jessica is a warm-hearted, caring person who truly wants to please others with her delicious creations, a warm smile, and an listening ear.

To see a 1:31 video of Jessica: https://en-gb.facebook.com/PanhandlePBS/videos/jessica-of-girasol-cafe-and-bakery-on-savoring/10156400766243116/

Jessica baking, and a photo of her new truck

While we were in Amarillo, we enjoyed some Mexican food, and we went to a biker bar and grill on historic Route 66. It was a really fun strip with biker bars galore, cafés, BBQ, vintage shops, tattoo shops, and art galleries. I think if I lived in Amarillo, I would spend a fair amount of time in that section of town. We also visited Palo Duro, the second largest canyon in the U.S. You can camp and hike down there, and there are places where people slide down on sandy hills on the seat of their pants. It was gorgeous, and I am glad we were able to see it.

Palo Duro, the second largest canyon in the U.S.
Jessica and me

After Amarillo, we really began to head home. We stopped in Lubbock to visit the Wild West H-D store. My dad got a t-shirt, and I got my poker chip. The staff was friendly enough, but I wouldn’t say that the inside of the store was super exciting. After that stop, we called it a day in Sweet Water, TX. We had some good, local Mexican food, and in the restaurant, other patrons asked about our bikes and our trip. Through discussion, we found out that one of the other patrons lived in Massachusetts as a child and he still has family there.

in the junk shop in Mason, TX

Finally, in our final day of the journey, we headed down to San Antonio, TX. We stopped in Mason, TX to check out an old junk shop. It has all kinds of crazy old stuff and TX decor. They have a good BBQ place there, but we wanted to get home, so we got back on the road and finished our miles. Once we got to Boerne, TX, we had to stop at Javelina H-D. After all, they are our home store. Our journey started there, so it seemed fitting that we would finish there and say hi to our friends. At Javelina H-D, we really do enjoy the people. It is more than just a business relationship; many of them are our friends. When we entered, we had a lot of hugs and we excitedly told them about our trip.

Alas, we are in our own home now, where we enjoyed our own showers, and tonight, we will enjoy our own beds. In total, we traveled 6,686 miles and rode in 20 different states in 6 weeks:

  • Texas
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
our home store, where we learned to ride and bought our bikes

I am truly thankful for this awesome adventure with my amazing dad. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have had this experience. My dad and I had fun together, and it was enjoyable to have an idea where we were going, but to also see where the wind takes us. The sense of freedom was wonderful for my soul. Overall, we had good weather during this trip. We had a few days that we hunkered down in a hotel because of the rain, but that is a reminder that as humans, we can make the best laid plans, but we are not in control. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow, and should be at peace with that. It was also fun to be open to the serendipitous discoveries along the way.

The greatest part of riding across the country on the backroads on your Harley is that you really get to see the beauty of this nation. Our country has natural beauty in the landscapes and various climates, and I truly believe that when we allow ourselves to be with nature, we are closer to God. On a motorcycle, you not only see the landscapes, but you feel the wind in your face, you smell the flowers, you feel the twists and turns and rise and fall of the road, and you feel the sun beating down on your skin. In addition to the natural beauty, it was wonderful to see how different people live, what they do for fun and work, and to listen to their stories. Almost every time we stopped somewhere, friendly people wanted to ask about our trip and they wanted to share some history or tidbit about their town or city. I also have a greater appreciation for our farmers and ranchers, who put in long, hard hours to provide us with the food we put on our tables. No matter the time of day, we saw farmers and ranchers hard at work.

In a time when the news is so negative, it was great to see all the wonderful things that are still happening. This trip was a nice reminder that most people are good. It is not the doom and gloom that is projected on the news. I hope that we can all continue to show some kindness and focus on the positive.

Finally, many people were impressed that I am a female who rides my own bike, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As the Cranberries sang, “the world is your oyster.” Let’s live boldly and intentionally!

Starting to make our way back south!

Harley-Davidson Motor Company (in a rain suit)

Before officially leaving Milwaukee, we stopped by to see the Harley Davidson Motor Company, which was closed since it was Sunday. We took a few pictures of our bikes in front of the building. We also rode up on the sidewalk to get a pic in front of the H-D sign out front.

As we rode the back highways, we came to the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, where there was a pizza shop at the intersection that straddled the border. I couldn’t snap a photo because we were at a red light that quickly went to green with traffic behind us, but it was pretty cool with the signage out front that showed that one half of the building was in an Illinois area code, while the other half was in a Wisconsin area code.

After awhile, we crossed into Iowa, where we saw some billboards encouraging people to vote Republican. There were tons and tons of farms, and the scenery was pretty. We went to Iowa City, Iowa to pay respects to my great grandmother’s grave, where she is buried with her family and our ancestors. She died when I was only one year old, and it is my understanding that she didn’t feel confident to hold me (because of age/strength), but she adored me. I know that my dad and Gram were very close, and he has shared some of his fond memories with me. She was good to him, but he was also good to her. Some of the tombstones included family members who lived from 1850 – 1890. They were all of German descent, and there was scripture, in German, on the tombstones. There was a baby that died in the 1800’s. Another child died as a toddler, and the tombstone had a little lamb on the top. Across the generations, the name Caroline was very popular, and I imagine that would get confusing in conversations.

We stopped at the McGrath Hawkeye H-D store, where they were friendly and asked about our journey. On the wall, they had photos enlarged on huge canvases that were taken by their employees of their bikes in different places around Iowa. There was one of a cool, painted barn, so I asked how far it was, and they told me only about 30 minutes. They printed some directions for us, and so of course, we had to go! It was actually in the opposite direction of our destination, but it was WELL WORTH the detour! These serendipitous discoveries are what make this road trip so fun!

a BEAUTIFUL barn in Iowa
I loved this stop!

In the evening, we went to a Mexican Restaurant called La Casa Azul, which was next door to our hotel and had a large crowd. We figured with that so many patrons, it had to be pretty good, and it was! It turns out, it is family owned by people from Guerrero, México. My dad enjoyed some enchiladas and a beer, and I had some delicious chicken fajitas. That was a nice father’s day meal.

DEEEELICIOUS Mexican food

The next day, we continued on to Burlington, Iowa. They have the Heartland H-D store, which we stopped at for t-shirts and poker chips. The owners/employees had a little chihuahua in the store who came over to said hi. A man with three little female terrors came into the store, and he did not supervise his children, who terrified the dog. They were all screaming (no exaggeration) and chasing after the dog. The dog ran behind the counter area, which was enclosed by counters on 4 sides with a small swinging gate, and the girls ran in there too! The cashier picked up the dog and told them that they were not allowed behind the counter. Then, the girls ran around the store, knocking things down, screaming and hollering, and just acting wild. The poor dog was still shaking, even in the arms of the cashier. I know they say it takes a village to raise children, but I don’t believe that means the village is a substitute for parenting.

Heartland H-D in Burlington, Iowa

We got on the road, and eventually crossed into Missouri. Missouri is also a lot of farm land, and the houses seem to be a bit more modest. When we were were about one hour away from Kansas City (our destination), we had to take a detour because the town was flooded a week ago, and some of the roads were still completely under water. I felt bad because the front yards were destroyed and you could see the damage to the homes. We stopped to ask a local for directions, we ended up having to head north and around a few towns, which added at least 45 minutes to an hour to our trip. We wanted to get gas, but this little town did not offer the 93 octane gas (only regular unleaded or Diesel), so we had to keep going and hoped that we would make it to the next town for gas. Luckily, about 40 or 45 minutes later, we did come across a major gas station, where we were able to fill up.

Where we pulled over for directions for a detour

As we headed to south to Kansas City, the clouds were rolling in. We knew they were supposed to get rain in the evening, but we hoped to beat it. We were trying so hard to make it to the H-D store before they closed, but we weren’t sure if we would make it. Most of them close by 6:00 pm, but we looked, and this one was open until 8:00 pm. The rain caught up to us as we rolled into Kansas City, but we made it to the store. They have a HUGE inventory collection, and the staff was very friendly. We were int the store for about 15 minutes, and when we left, the rain was heavier. Luckily, the hotels were less than a mile away, so we hunkered down for the night. Both of us were exhausted and sore from the long ride of at least 350 miles, and I slept like a rock!

After a long, 400-mile ride the next day, we arrived to Dodge City, Kansas. We passed a lot of pro-life billboards, and we saw several billboards telling motorists to look twice for motorcycles. We did make a stop along the way in the Twister City H-D (in Wichita, KS). My dad got a shirt there, and I got a poker chip. One of the guys talked our ears off, and we eventually had to tell him we needed to get back on the road. As we traveled west on highway 50, the winds got more intense. We stopped for gas and a cold drink about 60 miles away from Dodge City, and the owner of the store told us, “if it ain’t at least 40 mph winds, it ain’t nothing here in Kansas.” Our bikes were pushed around on the road, and the draft off of the cattle trucks is the worst. It shakes the entire bike, despite moving as far away in our lane as possible and slowing down before we cross paths. Once we arrived to Dodge City, we stopped at their H-D store, where we took a silly picture. Unfortunately, their t-shirt supply was wiped out from an event the previous week, so my dad will be ordering a shirt to be shipped.

Dodge City is the cowboy capital, and we went to the Boot Hill Museum, where we learned about various cowboy legends and how difficult life was in the 1800’s. They had old guns, Victorian clothing, tidbits about saloons, gambling, prostitution, law enforcement, and information about the cattle drives. My dad grew up watching cowboy shows and movies, so he really liked that. This evening, we went to a BBQ dinner and a western variety show, which is the oldest running one in the country. At dinner, we met a couple from Charleston and a couple from Arizona. On the way out, we met some other Harlistas from Texas.

Me & my amazing Dad
the variety show

Next, we went to the Kansas Teacher’s Hall of Fame. It is the first in the country, and it was worth the visit. A proud, retired teacher (41 years of service) gave us the tour. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1977 by a school superintendent who believed teachers should be honored and respected. Since then, there are teachers inducted annually. To be considered, they must have 25 + years of teaching experience in Kansas, a certain amount of documented volunteer service, and they must be nominated. A committee of representatives from the different districts across the state make the final decision. In addition to learning about these teachers, they have a lot of teaching memorabilia, including teacher contracts dating back to the 1800’s, teacher rules of 1872, memory books, old schoolhouse desks, and old teaching resources and technology that have been donated. The memory books were given to students by their teachers in the 180o’s, and they had a picture of the teacher, some poems, a statement or quote about the importance of education, and a list of all the pupils in the class that year. I thought they were very sweet. Out back, they also have an old one-room school house that has been restored with fresh paint. It still has original desks, and old chalkboard, a piano that was in the classroom, and original hardwood floors. The flag was old enough that it didn’t have all 50 stars; at that point, Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma were not states.

It was great to see teacher appreciation. Imagine if all states honored and respected teachers.

These are two of the memory books
The one-room schoolhouse

The H-D Museum in Milwaukee

We made it! My dad and I arrived to the Harley Davidson Museum just a few minutes before 9:00 a.m., when they opened. I wore my light jacket for the ride of nine miles, in case I needed it later. My dad originally thought I was funny, but we needed our jackets and more by the time we left! Upon arrival, we parked in the motorcycle parking area, which is monitored by security cameras. We took a few photos from the outside, and we met some Canadians from Toronto. Alvin, from Canada, is also a collector of the H-D poker chips, and he was nice enough to give me one from Toronto! We exchanged information, and I promised to send him some from San Antonio when I get back home.

Some of the oldies but goodies!

Today is officially the first day of their summer season, so there was a special Garage exhibit for the summer. Because we are official H.O.G. members, we had free admission to the museum, but we chose to pay $8 each for a guided tour. We walked around the main hall on our own, where we saw bikes dating back to 1911. Some had sidecars, some had attachments for making deliveries, and one was for the police. We were able to see the first Harley Davidson, with serial number 1. It is enclosed in a glass case for protection.

Our tour started at 10:30 a.m. and was led by an English a professor at Marquette University who gives tours during the summer. (Could I have a cool future like this guy? Fingers crossed.) He was very informative and we learned a lot, but unfortunately, the size of the group was a little too large. I realize he is not in charge of that, so I don’t blame him. About 2/3 of the way through the tour, some freeloaders tagged along, and the young girl who was hired to be the caboose of our tour didn’t have the guts to tell them to take a hike. So, our group got larger and we had children who were running around with minimal parental guidance (that’s my diplomatic voice). What can you do?

I loved seeing the military motorcycles. There was one that had a side car, and it had the star painted on the gas tank. During WW II, H-D did not make many changes to their civilian bikes because they were contracted to make the bikes for our military. They did make some adjustments so that the bikes would be sturdy in different types of terrain and climates. We learned that the bikes were shipped overseas as parts in wooden boxes, and the military guys would assemble them there. This is actually part of the reason Harley Davidson became so popular with veterans. When they came back from WW II and were adjusting to life back home, they got the bikes, often still assembling the bikes themselves, and forming their own clubs for leisure and brotherhood. Hence, the beginning of motorcycle clubs!

Gorgeous military bikes!
U.S. Mail carrier

We also saw an old police H-D. Milwaukee was the first city to buy them for their traffic patrol police officers. As time went on, they became popular with other cities as well. We also saw an old Harley that was used by mail carriers. They had a 100th anniversary edition bike with a sidecar on display, and it was signed by all the employees that year! Pretty cool.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love color. Everything I own depends on the color. The H-D museum had a nice display of gas tank designs over the years. They were labeled with paint colors and years, and I love the turquoise shades the best.

I love the turquoise!

H-D was originally very interested in self promotion, and they would ride their motorcycles all around the country, taking photos and sharing their stories. The marketing was targeted for middle class families, trying to sell a lifestyle of leisure entertainment. I tried to snap a few photos of ads and some photos showing how they marketed the lifestyle.

In a room downstairs, they had some H-D motorcycles that have appeared in movies, including Captain America. They also had one of Elvis Presley’s motorcycles, but I have to say, it’s not as nice as his ones on display at Graceland. Finally, they had some bikes on display that you could sit on and take photos. Most of them were 2019 edition bikes, but a few were oldies.

After seeing the whole museum, my dad and I had lunch at the Motor Restaurant (which they own on the property). My dad had a nice Cuban sandwich, and I had a nice avocado club sandwich. We did not consume any alcohol since we were on our bikes, but the bar looked pretty cool, and it had a vintage bike up on the wall.

Lunch

When we went into the gift shop, I found a few things for my dad for father’s day. As I was looking around, he came up to chat. So I told him to to let me know when he is done looking around. He made his purchases, and I asked him to wait outside while I made mine. It turns out, I got him a H-D Museum challenge coin that he also bought himself! (This was discovered later when we returned to the hotel.) I got a few other items, but because we can’t carry much, I paid to have them shipped.

One of the fun things about being in the museum is that there are people from around the world. In our tour, we had some men from Spain, a man from France, and people from all over the United States. Everyone wears a H-D shirt from their hometown, so you can see the great diversity of H.O.G. members. In one display case, they had a collection of chapter patches (referred to as rocker bars) from all around the world! Clubs are welcomed to bring one to donate to the museum. While we were in the store, one of the employees noticed my shirt, which is from Caliente H-D in San Antonio, and he asked if that’s where I am from. I told him I currently live in San Antonio, and it turns out he used to work in the motor clothes section of Caliente H-D! Such a small world.

On Saturdays, you can take demo rides of any of the 2019 models, but because it was so windy and freezing cold by the time we got back outside, we did not do that. It was down to the 50s, and because we were only 2 blocks away from the lake, the winds made it so cold! We never anticipated we would be freezing in June. We rode back to the hotel, and we actually turned the heat on in our room. Crazy, right? Our tour guide did have a few jokes about he never-ending winter of Milwaukee.

Overall, it was pretty cool to see all the different bikes and to learn the history of the company. I’m glad we got to do this for Father’s Day.

On the road again!

After a lovely visit to MA, we are back on the road, headed to Milwaukee. We headed west on the Mass Pike (Interstate 90) over to NY. While in NY, we stopped at the Woodstock Harley Davidson, which was pretty cool. They are celebrating their 50th anniversary, and had special shirts to reflect that. They have a cool gong that says Woodstock HD on the front of it for the buyers to strike when they buy a new bike. As we moved on, the rain was right behind us. We tried our best to stay ahead of it, but eventually, we got caught in it. That led us to find a hotel where we were, in a small town in upstate Ellensville, NY. There weren’t a lot of options, but we found an old hotel that was clean, but could use some updates.

In the morning, we got up extra early to try to make up some mileage. It was cloudy, cold, and damp as we rode. The mountains of upstate NY are beautiful, and you can tell people really attempt to be stewards of our Earth. We passed yoga retreats, Buddhist temples, and billboards promoting peace on Earth. It was a cold, damp, and windy morning with highs in the 50s. I wore my jacket and gloves, but I was FREEZING! I got so cold that I started getting drowsy, and my eyelids were heavy, so we pulled off at a local cafe to get some coffee and breakfast and to warm up. The locals were friendly and asked about our trip. When we headed back out, I put on my rain suit to provide another layer and potential wind resistance; I had 4 layers on the top and two on the bottom (including the rain suit). I looked like the Michellin Man.

Bundled up in upstate NY in June!

As we got back onto our bikes, we met a local man who drives a truck to carry bales of hay and/or cattle. He is the proud owner of a H-D Road King, his son has a Heritage, and his aunt, who is 73, rides her own Heritage. This man said he was in his 50s, but he is in excellent shape, which makes sense since he loads the bales of hay himself. The countryside is beautiful, but that is a lot of hard work!

Larry’s H-D

After NY, we headed into PA. We saw some beautiful farms in the golden hour, but due to traffic, I couldn’t stop much for photos. I was still really cold, and an hour later, I was drowsy again, so we had to stop. We were not doing a great job of making up our lost mileage. Luckily, my dad was understanding and focused on safety first. After PA, we cut into Ohio. We rode into Cleveland, OH to visit the Rock N Roll Harley Davidson. I was in the front, and traffic was a bit nerve wracking, but we did well and changed interstates smoothly. The Rock N Roll H-D was a lot of fun! They have fun signage and cool t-shirts. The lady who waited on us had dark black hair, styled like Elvis.

a farm in PA

As we cut through Ohio, we went through Toledo, OH. Unexpectedly, we came across their H-D dealership, so we stopped. People were friendly, but it wasn’t a super exciting store. They had a sign that they are hiring “awesome people” so I teased my dad and said he should apply. We still had 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to our destination, and it was already after 5:00 PM. Rush hour traffic was in effect, so we stopped at a local diner to eat. My dad and I enjoyed some great club sandwiches, and the wait staff and locals were excited to hear about our journey.

Next, we got back on the road to head to Michigan. We had 1 hour and 45 minutes left, according to Google maps. We were on back roads, cutting through farm land. It wasn’t too long before we were in Michigan, and their sign says they are the “pure” state. For a few minutes, our path took us through a small piece of Indianna, and then we were back to Michigan. At about 8:30 PM, we arrived to Cloudwater, Michigan, where we hunkered down for the night. When we got into the hotel, the top priority was turning on the TV for the final game of the Stanley Cup. When we tuned in, St. Louis was ahead, 2-0. Sadly, the Bruins lost, 4-1. It’s disappointing that they didn’t win, but it provided excitement for all the Boston fans.

Due to the rain, we stayed in Michigan for an extra day. I ended up with an upset tummy, so that worked out well. I pretty much laid around all day and watched movies on HBO. In the evening, it stopped raining, so we went for a walk. We walked by anther hotel that looked like a dump, and the sign out front advertised their Wi-Fi, amount of cable channels, and that it is “American owned.” Things that make you go hmm…

On Friday, we got back on the road again, and we were headed to Milwaukee. We originally planned to take a ferry across the lake from Michigan over to Milwaukee, but the winds were crazy and they said on the news that they were experiencing 5 to 10-feet waves. Additionally, I thought the price was too much. It didn’t save us any time, but it would have saved riding. So, we rode our motorcycles, and we headed south and went through Indiana (the heartland of America), over through Illinois (the land of Lincoln), and up to Wisconsin (the dairy capital). Chicago was a nightmare. We got there at about 1:00 PM, and we rode the clutch the whole time. (For those of you who don’t ride motorcycles, that means we were so slow that we never actually engaged in first gear to move.) It was stop and go for 45 minutes to an hour. I actually strained the middle finger on my left hand from squeezing the clutch for so long! (Do I get any sympathy? LOL) We passed by the White Sox stadium, which I have never been to. I have seen a Cubs game, but not White Sox.

After we made it across Chicago, we stopped at Lakeside H-D, where the staff was super excited about our road trip. They came out to check out our bikes. One guy laughed and commented that he never knew you could pack that much luggage on a Softail. : ) They offered us water, called me sweetheart, and treated us with kindness. One of the female employees commented that she wished she would have done more rides with her dad while he was healthy, and she said it’s good I am doing this now. Next, I met a wonderful lady who worked there, named Helene. She loved the story of our journey, and it actually moved her to tears. She asked what I do, and I explained that I am a doctoral candidate of Culture, Literacy and Language, hoping to make a difference in the quality of education our high school ELL students receive. She said she absolutely loved me and told my dad, “you must be so proud!” and he smiled and said he is. She asked me to keep in touch, so we exchanged emails. It is wonderful to meet so many warm people across the country.

While chatting with Helene, I asked if she could recommend a good local place for some Chicago deep dish pizza. She recommended the Silo, which was right down the street. She did not lead us astray! That was an amazing pizza. Unfortunately, because we were on motorcycles, we couldn’t take the leftovers home. Trust me, I would have. One thing I always miss in Texas is good pizza. So, this pizza was like Heaven on Earth.

Award-winning deep dish pizza at The Silo

Finally, we arrived to our hotel in Wisconsin, which is nine miles away from the Harley Davidson Museum. We will go there on Saturday, and because we are H.O.G. members, we will get free admission. Everyone tells us the tour will be impressive, and several people have said we have to eat in the restaurant there. I’m looking forward to it, and I am glad we are doing this in Father’s Day weekend.

Home… is it a place or a feeling?

After Rolling Thunder, my dad and I were lucky enough to visit friends and family in Massachusetts. My mom is originally from Framingham, MA and my dad grew up in Albuquerque, NM. As a military child, I moved a lot, but I lived in Massachusetts for a couple of years (ages 4 – 6) and I lived in NM from age 11 – 22. I then moved to Massachusetts, where I began my teaching career, and I lived there for 15 years. Military children are often referred to as “third space” children, meaning that they don’t fully belong in one place or in one culture, but they can move fluidly across boundaries and borders to adapt to their new environments. They are not this or that, but they are this third option, taking the best of each experience and environment, and incorporating it into their ways of being. While people often comment, “It must have been hard growing up…,” I have always felt like it was a privilege to explore the beauty and wonders of our world. I am thankful I was not insulated in one little bubble. So, all of that moving around begs the question… what is home? I will come back to this idea later in this post.

We stayed with my aunt and uncle, and we were able to see their son (my cousin) and his family. His son turned 8 while we were there, and he was dying to go for a ride on a motorcycle. He hinted to me first, but I told him the truth: I am uncomfortable with the idea of passengers on my bike. So, my dad called my cousin Matthew later, and asked if he could pick up Aiden, his son, for a ride for his birthday. Aiden’s parents said that would be fine, so my dad surprised him and picked him up. Aiden was in heaven, and they rode back together to my aunt and uncle’s house. He asked for another ride, so my dad surprised him again by picking him up from school one day (with permission, of course). Aiden swears his first vehicle will be a Harley. : )

Aiden and my dad are pretty cool dudes!

By the time we got to Massachusetts, I had about 5,000 miles on my motorcycle, so we called around to make an appointment for maintenance. We had a hard time getting an appointment, but Sheldon’s Harley Davidson of Auburn, MA was able to get us in on Monday. I got my 5,000-mile maintenance and my dad got his 15,000-mile maintenance. While we were there, my dad ended up getting new tires (needed) and I ended up adding cruise control to my bike! When I bought my Deluxe, I assumed it came with cruise control because my Heritage had it, but sadly, it does not come standard. So, my ride home should be a lot nicer with cruise control!

Sheldon’s Harley Davidson in Auburn, MA for my 5,000-mi maintenance

Because it is graduation season, it made it easier to see family as we all gathered to honor our family graduates. I went to my cousin Brady’s party, and I was able to spend time with my great aunt, and the next three generations of her family. My cousin Brady is a very mature young man who will begin college in the fall. We are all very proud of him, and the party was really nice. I also visited with some other cousins and had dinner with them. At the center of attention was my little cousin Lilly, who is a ginger and a hot shot.

In addition to family celebrations, I was able to go on a Boston Duck Tour with one of my friends and her family, I went to see a special Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with another friend, I rode Harleys with a friend in southern New Hampshire, I had breakfast with a friend who was like an aunt to me, and I went to the beach with a special person, Datnery. I wish I had time to see all of my friends, but with a short amount of time, I packed as much in as I could. I tried to see people that I couldn’t see last time, but I still didn’t see everyone. Next time…

Who can resist this little munchkin?

My dad and I also went up to New Hampshire to visit a cousin who lives in Rindge. He has a beautiful home right on the lake, and it is a perfect setting for his iron man training. We got to meet his new puppy, and we enjoyed the time with him. Then, we headed over to Keen, NH to check out the Harley Davidson, and finally, we went to Harrisville, NH to visit another cousin who owns her own bakery. The scenery in NH is beautiful, and downtown Harrisville could be a postcard. They have old buildings, quaint coffee shops, lovely, mature trees, and and old churches.

Keen, NH Harley Davidson

Of course, I saw Datnery, a very special young lady. Ten years ago, I was lucky enough to be matched with Datnery through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Lawrence, MA, when she was beginning her freshman year in high school. Through the years, she has become like a niece to me. I have seen her blossom into a caring, mature, responsible, hard working, and compassionate young lady. In this visit, we went to the beach for the day, and we had it to ourselves! On the way home, we stopped for some good ice cream at Hodgies (an ice cream stand with dairy fresh ice cream), and then we visited with her family. Her family is a fun, supportive, and loving bunch, and they always make me feel like part of the family. Datnery now has a three-month-old niece, who I met for the first time in this visit too. She is an adorable gordita. Datnery and her family are Dominican, and I enjoy when they share their culture and language with me. Datnery’s family thought it was cool and surprising that I ride a motorcycle now.

Datnery & Francine (beach goddesses)

It is true that people who live in Massachusetts eat more ice cream than people from any other state. It’s not surprising given the fresh dairy ice cream stands that can be found across the state. People in Texas love their Blue Bell, but that is NOTHING compared to fresh dairy ice cream. While in Framingham, my dad and I visited my mom’s grave, and then we went to the Sunshine Dairy for ice cream. I have fond memories of going to the Sunshine Dairy with my maternal grandma, and it was nostalgic to enjoy my ice cream. We drove past my grandparents’ home, and it looks the same from the front. Nothing has changed except the cars that are parked in the driveway and I could see the backyard is different.

My dad and I visited my mom’s grave. She is buried with her parents, and my dad’s name is inscribed on the stone, which will be completed once he is buried with her. It’s strange to go to a cemetery for your mom. I don’t know if others find solace, but it is a depressing idea to me. I believe that my mom’s spirit is always with me, regardless of where I am. As I visited her spot, I really wished that she could be with me physically for my graduation. I would give anything for another hug, but, those days are gone. And so, as I reflect on what it means to be home….

Massachusetts felt like home when my mom was there, but as a military child, I am accustomed to moving around and making friends wherever I go. I did not grow up around extended family, so when I went to Massachusetts after college, it was my chance to get to know my extended family better. I do enjoy my time in MA with friends and family, but it is not the same there without my mom.

This brings me to my my conclusion: home is a feeling. It is not a place. Home for me is in my mother’s eyes. So, in that sense, I do not feel “at home” in Texas, but I also don’t fully feel at home in MA. I like both places for different reasons, and I am always truly thankful for my family and friends who accept me as I am, who encourage and support me, and who share laughter, fun, and challenges with me. That is how one feels at home… the feeling of ease and comfort being ourselves with while knowing we are loved unconditionally. While I may not ever be fully “at home” without my mom, I appreciate the sense of home provided by my family and friends.